Buried in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is an eclectic town like no other. This mini-city is home to more than 30 breweries, the highest per capita in the United States! It’s also known for its thriving experimental art scene and an endless supply of live music and funky murals.
Set in the outskirts of Pisgah National Forest, the quirky city of Asheville also stands apart as an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Referred to as the “Land of Waterfalls,” this mountain town is near hundreds of otherworldly oases.
The area’s beauty has even attracted Hollywood cameras. Asheville’s forests and waterfalls are featured in major motion-picture movies like The Hunger Games and Dirty Dancing!
Asheville is home to just under 100,000 people and is far from an asphalt jungle. Still, its contemporary energy draws in an imaginative and trendy crowd, earning the nickname the “San Francisco of the East.”
With so many different things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Asheville for you. Stick to this fun and unique Asheville bucket list, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an incredible time in The Land of the Sky!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The Top 15 Things to do in Asheville, North Carolina
- 15 cool and unique things to do in Asheville, North Carolina
- 1. Picnic at the Top of a Mountain Summit
- 2. Bellyak the French Broad River
- 3. Dance in a Pritchard Park Drum Circle
- 4. Live Like a Vanderbilt for a Day at the Biltmore Estate
- 5. Mountain Bike in Bent Creek Experimental Forest
- 6. Be a Kid Again at the Asheville Pinball Museum
- 7. Read Vintage Books with a Glass of Bubbly
- 8. Explore the “Land of Waterfalls”
- 9. Sample More than 100 Locally-Made Craft Beers
- 10. Cheer for the Asheville Tourists
- 11. Investigate the Mystery of Ancient Petroglyphs
- 12. Forage for Food and Experience ‘Find Dining’
- 13. Get ‘Married’ at Fleetwood’s Wedding Chapel
- 14. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz
- 15. Soak in a Private Hot Tub in the Woods
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15 cool and unique things to do in Asheville, North Carolina
1. Picnic at the Top of a Mountain Summit
If you love mountains, you’re going to be very busy during your trip to Asheville!
There are endless places to hike in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, including Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The state park is home to several trails, from short nature walks on old logging roads to a strenuous 6-mile hike to the summit. Pack a lunch, and you can enjoy a picnic at the top with gorgeous panoramic views.
Chimney Rock is one of the most iconic outdoor attractions in North Carolina. If you’re questing for adventure and have legs of steel, take on the challenge of climbing the 494 steps on the Outcroppings Trail before ascending a 315-foot rock formation to glimpse incredible views from the top of the Land of the Pines.
There’s also a more accessible option to skip the stairs and take a ride on a state-of-the-art elevator to an open space near the top of Chimney Rock. The view will take your breath away. For a special treat, plan your visit in the fall so you can view the breathtaking colors.
It’s hard to pick the best sights in Asheville. There is just so much jaw-dropping scenery in this part of western North Carolina!
2. Bellyak the French Broad River
Adventure is calling in the form of a new trend in water sports. Asheville is the birthplace of bellyaks, boat-kayak hybrids that are designed so you can lay on your stomach while using webbed gloves to paddle through the current. Picture a body-length kicking board built out of the bottom of a kayak.
The sport is an excellent alternative for first-time or seasoned kayakers and rafters. Some people will be comforted by the fact that you won’t be strapped into this boat, so if you tip over, it’s easy to get back on board. Adrenaline junkies can take their bellyak to the Class II and III rapids on the French Broad River.
If you’re looking for the kind of flotation device that allows the ability to have a beverage in your hand as you mindlessly make your way down the river, you can always laze the way in a tube.
Several businesses offer tube and helmet rentals and will even shuttle you back to your car at the end. The current on the French Broad River is typically fast enough to keep you moving but wide enough that you don’t have to navigate around many obstacles.
3. Dance in a Pritchard Park Drum Circle
Asheville is a beautifully weird, hippy city that embraces musical culture. Every Friday night in the warmer weather months (April through October), hundreds of people gather in Pritchard Park with musical instruments to form a drum circle.
The tradition started in 2001 as free entertainment event intended to create harmony with music and the community. Anyone can bring a drum and join in on the music. The courtyard typically fills up with all kinds of entertainment, including belly dancers and hula-hoopers.
The jam session runs from 6 pm to 10 pm. Pritchard Park is located right in the middle of downtown Asheville with plenty of restaurants, shops, and breweries nearby.
4. Live Like a Vanderbilt for a Day at the Biltmore Estate
If you’ve always dreamed of vacationing in a far-away castle in the woods, Asheville could be your own slice of heaven!
Asheville’s Biltmore Estate is the biggest privately-owned home in the United States. The mansion was built in 1895 and consists of more than four acres of floor space and 250 rooms. The massive house has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to a castle on this side of the pond.
The structure was the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt and has been carefully preserved over the years so that the original furnishings and art appear just as they were during the Gilded Age. A visit gives the experience of walking in their footsteps, like a VIP of the notoriously wealthy family during their life of excess.
Tours of the mansion include complimentary wine tastings. There’s a long list of activities on the property that offer an experience for everyone in the house. If that’s not enough, the resort even comes complete with a relaxing spa, an art exhibit, a bowling alley, and an archery range.
The estate’s scenic “backyard” includes another 75 acres of land that allows guests to hike, bike, take a carriage ride, or ride a horse through the property. The Biltmore is one of the must-see Asheville attractions, giving you the closest experience to American royalty possible!
5. Mountain Bike in Bent Creek Experimental Forest
Where there are mountains, there are epic biking trails to explore!
Bent Creek Experimental Forest is a popular place for off-road cycling. Nearly 30 miles of double and single-track trails are open in the area for all skill and adventure levels. The nature area is just about a 20-minute drive from downtown Asheville.
Trails at Bent Creek include both flatter areas and mountainous sections. The courses near Lake Powhatan are great for beginners, while skilled bikers will enjoy the heart-pumping tracks near the ridge. Green’s Lick trail is known for its fast and jump-filled descent to the bottom.
The trail network can be connected to paths in the nearby Pisgah National Forest, giving cyclists the option to choose their own adventure and craft an Asheville bucket-list mountain bike adventure.
If you prefer to pedal more urban routes, several businesses in the city offer e-bike rentals, which come in handy when skipping from brewery to brewery in Asheville’s massive craft beer scene.
6. Be a Kid Again at the Asheville Pinball Museum
There’s nothing like a healthy dose of nostalgia during the vacation of a lifetime. And you’ll get that in spades in Asheville!
If you want to tap into your inner child, the Asheville Pinball Museum is home to 35 pinball machines and 35 classic video games. At the museum, you won’t have to sift through the lint in your pocket for another quarter in that never-ending quest for a high score. Admission is an all-inclusive $15 and allows you to play as many games as your heart desires with a beer in hand.
The museum has machines created in the 1950s as well as some more recent gaming favorites, all the way to the 21st century. Chances are you’ll come across a game you haven’t seen since you were a kid, which is why some people call the museum one of the most fun things to do in Asheville! A small bar on site serves booze and other non-alcoholic beverages.
7. Read Vintage Books with a Glass of Bubbly
Typically a visit to a used book store isn’t at the top of the list for an exciting getaway. But Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar is changing that in Asheville!
The store specializes in vintage books about North Carolinian and American history, the Civil War, and the American South. Well aware that a real page-turner is best served with cheese, the institution also serves snacks and glasses of bubbly. Visitors can peruse thousands of books, all while sipping a fine wine or glass of champagne.
It makes sense that this literary heaven is located in the city of Asheville, as a dozen great academic minds have been connected to the area through history. The most famous word warriors who have spent serious time in Asheville include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carl Sandburg, and Thomas Wolfe. Carl Sandburg’s home is just outside of Asheville and is currently open for tours under the ownership of the National Parks Service.
Battery Park Book Exchange also hosts live jazz concerts during the weekends.
8. Explore the “Land of Waterfalls”
There are so many waterfalls near Asheville, it would be impossible to see them all. The options are endless, with plunging rapids that are easily accessible by vehicle, as well as ones you’ve got to work for, located at the end of a long hike.
DuPont State Park has a relatively accessible waterfall trail where hikers can see four different falls in one location. Three of the waterfalls can be viewed on a single trail.
The legendary Triple Falls is located near the trail’s end and is famous for its appearance in The Hunger Games. Explore the area and scramble through the rocks to get a closer look at the natural wonder that makes the perfect backdrop for Instagram-worthy pictures. The park is about a 40-minute drive from Asheville.
If you’re brave enough to take on chilly temperatures, you can even scoot down a natural waterfall slide at Sliding Rock Recreation Area. The 60-foot rock formation ends in a splashy 8-foot-deep pool of water, open for swimming and often staffed by lifeguards.
Be aware that sliding is not permitted during times of high water or severe weather, and it’s best to check with Adventure Pisgah to make sure the slide is operational before making the 35-mile trip over to the nature area.
Want to pack as many waterfalls as possible into a short trip? Then you might want to consider taking a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic Asheville bucket list drive that passes by several roadside waterfalls. A local favorite is Crabtree Falls, positioned just off the parkway at milepost 339.5. The waterfall drops 70 feet and is considered one of the most majestic in the area!
9. Sample More than 100 Locally-Made Craft Beers
According to brewers, the reason Asheville is well respected in the fermented yeast scene is simply that the location itself lends well to a great pint of beer. They say the water flowing from the mountains of Pisgah National Forest is perfect for brewing!
The city is home to small and large-scale craft breweries, including well-known brands such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. The complete list of stops changes, but about 30 different operations regularly brew beer in the city. Many of these are a walkable distance from each other in downtown Asheville.
There’s something here for everyone. You can sample everything from a traditional pilsner to an experimental sour. The breweries themselves are set in diverse settings, including an old tractor-trailer repair shop at Brouwerij Crusus Keme, a movie theater at Asheville Brewing Company, and the sprawling hillside of Highland Brewing’s mega-complex complete with a disc-golf course, hiking trails, and volleyball courts.
Additionally, Asheville even has options for people who don’t drink alcohol. Devil’s Foot Beverage Company‘s craft non-alcoholic drinks are made with 100% certified organic ingredients like ginger root, lemons, and limes. Devil’s Foot Beverage Company’s menu consists of ginger beer, sparkling fruit-infused concoctions, and alcohol-free craft cocktails.
10. Cheer for the Asheville Tourists
Head out to the ballgame with the Asheville Tourists, the city’s minor league baseball team affiliated with the Houston Astros. The team name comes from the fact that most of the players were not from Asheville when the group was first created.
The quirky title gives out-of-towners an easy way to bond with the home team. The Asheville Tourists play 120 games a year, from May to September, and their games draw a combined 180,000 fans annually.
The historic Lewis McCormick Field is set in the hills of Asheville, providing an unforgettable backdrop of Western North Carolina’s sunset. If you’re in town for a Thirsty Thursday, beers are just $1.
11. Investigate the Mystery of Ancient Petroglyphs
An ancient mystery exists just outside of Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Judaculla Rock is a mysterious boulder carved with petroglyphs and believed to be a former sacred Cherokee Indian site before English settlers arrived in North America. According to legend, the rock carvings are the seven-fingered handprint of Tsul’Kalu, an ancient giant who landed in the spot while jumping from one mountain to another.
Archeologists speculate that the rock was engraved with more than 1,500 designs between 3000 and 2000 BC. It contains more petroglyphs than any other known stone east of the Mississippi River. A small parking area is located at the rock site, which is now owned by the Jackson County government. The rock is also listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.
12. Forage for Food and Experience ‘Find Dining’
If you’re a foodie visiting Asheville, there’s one unique dining opportunity you won’t want to miss!
The woods of western North Carolina are home to various wild plants and fungi, including berries, mushrooms, and herbs. There are countless flavors to choose from, as more than 3,000 species of fungi have been discovered by researchers in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The local culinary scene embraces these wild ingredients, often adding their flavors to dishes. But the chefs know the most memorable way to taste nature is to let their customers in on the thrill of the hunt and forage their own meal.
The seeking is all part of the journey, and visitors can book a foraged food tour with a guide, then take their finds to one of a list of restaurant partners, where chefs will cook their found ingredients into a forage-to-table appetizer.
Some tours even feature cooking demonstrations and tastings while still out in the forest, which should be at the top of your Asheville bucket list if you’re a foodie!
13. Get ‘Married’ at Fleetwood’s Wedding Chapel
Asheville’s city slogan is “keep Asheville weird,” and visiting Fleetwood’s Rock-n-Roll Wedding Chapel is definitely one way to participate in the kookiness!
The chapel-bar-vintage shop hybrid offers a Vegas-style experience without the next-day annulment. For $75, you can host your very own “Married for the weekend” ceremony unbound with flashing light-up wedding rings.
Pay an extra fee, and you’ll even get to borrow something from their selection of wedding dresses and tux attire, and a photographer will snap a few polaroids to fill up your faux wedding album.
Since the ceremony isn’t legally binding, there aren’t any limits on who or what you can marry. The chapel will even host a commitment ceremony uniting you and your cell phone if you so desire!
This stop is by far one of the more unique things to do in Asheville. When Fleetwood’s isn’t hosting a wedding, the venue hosts live music and comedy acts.
14. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz
From 1970 to 1980, the theme park The Land of Oz was one of the most popular Asheville attractions.
When the park closed, it was overrun with vandalism, forcing preventive demolitions to parts of the closed-down attraction. However, the original theme park employees never lost hope that the unique space could be restored to a place full of happy visitors once again.
Those staff members, who operated under the nickname the “Ozzies,” pushed for annual reopenings of the surviving space, which now consists of a farmhouse, barn, and yellow brick road. The proceeds from the special events fund the restoration mission.
Today, the park hosts several special events from May to September. The most popular event is Autumn at Oz, the world’s largest Wizard of Oz festival. It’s a party filled with handmade fan art, memorabilia, and immersive theater experiences.
Other events in the unique space include Character Meet-N-Greets on Saturdays in the summer, where you can get your pictures taken with select Land of Oz characters. Private tours of the facility are also available in the summer months.
15. Soak in a Private Hot Tub in the Woods
If you’re seeking a little rest and relaxation on your trip to Asheville, there’s one spa that seems to be straight out of an Instagram fairy tale.
The Shoji Spa & Retreat is an escape on a mountain, “2,500 feet above stress level.” The resort offers several massage and exfoliation treatments. However, the private salt hydrotherapy sessions make this spa stand apart from its competitors.
The salt mineral hot tubs allow you to relax in your own private forest hot tub. The rare treatment relieves pressure on the muscles, loosens joints, and promotes circulation. The soak is ideal after a strenuous hike to the top of one of the many nearby peaks. The Shoji Spa service includes a 180-degree wet cedar sauna and open-air cold shower for post-soak luxury.
The resort will serve their signature tea blend and Japanese tea crackers tubside for the ultimate wellness experience!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Asheville. What’s your favorite thing to do in Beer City?
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